Tolkien Gateway

Talk:Racism in Tolkien's Works

Revision as of 19:15, 15 January 2010 by Sage (Talk | contribs)

This page simply can't remain as it is - it is based largely on opinion and is often just plain incorrect (such as references to allegory and orcs being dark-skinned). What should be done? Should there be a deletion, or should the evidence for both sides be presented in a less opinionated manner? --Narfil Palùrfalas 20:49, 15 April 2008 (EDT)

Agree This is load of crap that Tolkien himself addressed racism in his letters, and said that he wasn't and that the idea was ludicrous. DELETE IT! --Dwarf Lord 21:30, 15 April 2008 (EDT)
I say: don't delete it. We could improve it as a refutation (rename as "Perceived Racism in Tolkien's Works" or something); it is clear that Hippy never read the letters. There are, on various spots on the net, refutations (this one for example, or this could be used to "harvest" stuff for the article). As we are an Encyclopedia that covers more than just the text-internal elements, ignoring perceived racism would be bad form. The problem with books is, kinda like feminist book reports (nothing personal), that if you want a book to have a certain bias, you will obviously "find" "clear evidence" through cherry picking of that bias, blatantly ignoring anything that does not match your already fixed conclusion. It's called confirmation bias, the bane of reason. -- Ederchil 03:27, 16 April 2008 (EDT)
PS Speaking of feminism, should we have a "perceived anti-feminism in Tolkien's works" too?
Edit: This has some useful sources on extreme right use!
I dont think this page should be deleted because it brings up some interesting issues and to ignore them would be to cover up a potentially less desirable angle on Tolkien's works. To ignore it would be to foist modern political trend onto a work that is, from a certain angle fundamentally racist. I agree with Ederchil that it should however be presented as a balanced argument with no real conclusion one way or another. Dr Death 05:35, 16 April 2008 (EDT)
You obviously haven't read the letters Death. I believe having a balanced page with no real conclusion is, no offense, a ridiculous idea. There is a final answer to this and that is Tolkien based the Evil Men on Africans, Arabs, and possibly Asians. So what! This would be a non-issue if we were talking about Black Numenoreans, and the Fallen Numenoreans of the Second Age. --Dwarf Lord 18:13, 16 April 2008 (EDT)
Let me start off my reply by stating, as I think we all agree, the current content on the article definitely needs to be rewritten entirely, and should obviously include the several quotations by Tolkien on this matter. tolkien and racism brings up over 100,000 results on Google; this subject is something which has been discussed frequently and I think an article on racist elements in Tolkien's works (as well as the un-racist reasonings) is more than welcome on the wiki. I do agree with Ederchil that a more neural title may be necessary but for now it is probably fine. Dwarf Lord, I don't think anyone here is arguing that Tolkien is a racist, there's a lot of information out there on this subject so why not gather it all together so fans can read all the facts. Simply deleting a controversial article is only going to leave more people uninformed. --Hyarion 21:15, 16 April 2008 (EDT)
Not so obviously Dwarflord as i have in fact read them. While you may think that one line in a book is enough to base an argument on i assure you it is not and i think as Hyarion says the issue does need to be addressed since there is so much said and written about it. I myself would not call Tolkien a racist by the standards of the time, however to modern readers his views may be considered that way and so as a reliable and open source of Tolkien knowledge we should be willing to face those accusations and provide the facts of the issue allowing the readers to make up their own minds. No need to be rude and confrontational about it and cast aspersions on my (i think you'll agree)excellent knowledge of the subject. Dr Death 05:34, 17 April 2008 (EDT)
I just made the article so that the issue could be addressed. I relied on the other nerds of this site to flesh it out and make it less biased. I basically just wrote down all the racist shit I could think of in Tolkien's works and waited until other people made it better. Which you have, so thank you. And thanks to this page, I believe that Tolkien Gateway is now a more well-rounded site. TheOneCleanHippy 05:13, 12 July 2008 (EDT)

The Rewrite

Or, less talk, more action. As for Hyar's google search, we're currently 4th ranked. Above us, it's a 1,5-1,5 draw. So here's some suggestions as to what the article should (IMHO) have:

  • More neutral name
  • Introduction
  • Use of Tolkien's work by Extreme right groups (BNP et al.).
  • Claims and refutations. This should by generalized into things as "Racism", "Nordicism", not a point by point ragtag analysis of "Dark bad, white good".
  • There's a good quote against the nordicism claim in Letter 294. Racism has four hits in the index. Letter 30, Letter 61, Letter 81 and once again 294. It's basically about Nazi Übermensch doctrine and Apartheid, and he clearly states he's "appalled by thinking in colour".
  • As for racial purity, Kin-strife, much? Snaga, much?
  • A certain temporal relativity should be clear throughout the article. To today's western standards, Tolkien was a racist. But in his time, he wasn't. Same goes for people famed for being not racists like Lincoln and Darwin.
  • We should mention Stephen Shapiro's claims - the top google rank. Reading the article makes me wonder whether we read the same book. His claim of the "uber-aryan fellowship" falls flat on its face. Rediff is an Indian site (target audience?), Shapiro is into "writing and culture of the United States, particularly the pre-twentieth century period; Cultural Studies; literary theory; historical formations of gender and sexuality; marxism, world-systems analyses; urban and spatial studies, and critiques of the bourgeois lifeworld as a mental disease. More broadly, late Enlightenment, 19 and 20/21C narrative"[1]; he's neither a linguist (who would not use "Aryan" in that sense) nor a Tolkien scholar.
  • Links to other sites like [2] and [3] (more shapiro), maybe some others that are above-blog entry level, maybe something from the Tolkien Estate (the site is minimal at the moment).

Anyone has any other ideas? -- Ederchil 13:54, 18 April 2008 (EDT)

Late reply: Only today this article came to my attention. I pasted a great bulk of text that comes from a deleted Wikipedia article, unacceptable since it is Original Research and the claims are not easily verifiable. It still needs some cleanup since it contains many repetitions. I hope that helps Sage 11:30, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

I moved the article to a more neutral title. --Pinkkeith 15:12, 11 May 2009 (UTC)

Evil Men

I gutted the Evil Men section as it seemed (besided horribly worded) based primarily on the films. The Southrons are described as wearing bronze plate armor and riding horses, so it is erroneous to say they are clearly based on African tribes. There is also nothing fundamentally "Mongollian" or "Middle Eastern" about the Easterlings (which are two wildly different cultures and I'm not clear how one could be both at once).

An aknowledgement of their geography and skin colors is really the most accurate way of describing the unfortunate racist implications of the Haradrim and Easterlings. It is not the Professors fault if someone paints them as Aftican (although in the Jackson films, the Haradrim are inspired by South Pacific cultures).

This section seems out of place, and I have put all of the non-repetitive point into the 'indications' section.

The "Good Side" section was unsalvageable. Elves are not "general Europeans" (what does that even mean?) and The Rohan are clearly based on Anglo-Saxons, not the Norse. I suspect the original author doesn't know what 'fair' means, because most of the men of Gondor are not described as fair in the slightest. TheBoost 17:17, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

I don't agree with the "gutation" of the section. The article is intended to include perceptions, even if wrong, to be refuted in the "Counterindications" section. The descriptions of swarthy men from the East and the South, the black-skinned orcs and their scimitars, bring mental images of AfroAsians, and are the most important contributor to the general accusations. What if the Haradrim wore bronze armor and rode horses? The mental image is already established by the average reader, who won't make a checklist for the historical/cultural dissimilarities. For example I never knew or cared whether Africans rode horses and this information didn't help me from envisioning the Southrons as Egyptians or Arabians. After all, Arabs were great riders, and aren't far from Africa.
As for the Good people, TTT was perceived by critics as a war between the fair Nordic Aryan Rohirrim against the black Orcs. There is no point tracing whose fault is: the Professor's, Jackson's, the painters' or the viewers'. The perception and criticism are there, no matter how wrong or unfounded, and the article is meant to describe that they exist. Sage 19:04, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

Not Racism

Unless a feudal society is fundamentally racist (a claim that seems foolish given that the king is king over his own race) to imply that all refrecnes to nobility and class stratification is racist seems like stretching. Likewise with any economic disparity in the Shire. The article is on racism, not on how Middle-Earth falls short of an egalitarian ideal and these seem out of the scope of this article. TheBoost 18:52, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

Not strictly racist, but the reference to royalty is not a political reference to the feudal society or egalitarianism, but to the ideology. Royal lines in Tolkien are generally special and heirs have qualities above the norm showing therefore some genetic-based nobility. Excessive protagonism of Heirs is a ground of criticism by some "Tolkien is racist" critics. At least where I live, royalty is linked to the right-wing :) Sage 19:15, 15 January 2010 (UTC)